With New ‘The Ride’ Festival Slated for This Summer, Concerns Are Raised
TELLURIDE – With the addition of KOTO Community Radio’s The Ride Festival as Telluride’s newest summer event, Telluride Town councilmembers this week began questioning whether or not Telluride has reached a point where there is no room for more summer music festivals.
As it turns out, the answer is complicated.
Last February, KOTO received approval from council to host The Ride Festival on Aug. 25 and 26 in Town Park. This is a separate event from the public radio station’s annual Doo-Dah concert fundraiser. During the approval discussion of The Ride Festival, there was mention by KOTO representatives of possible future events during this time period if this year’s two-day event is successful.
While a 2013 event has not yet been approved, KOTO submitted two 2013 calendar date applications to the Town of Telluride by the May 11 deadline (per the Municipal Code). Those dates include July 12-14, 2013 (a date change from July 8) for the Doo-Dah concert and Aug. 23-25, 2013 for The Ride Festival. The 2013 KOTO Doo-Dah concert was considered and approved by the Telluride Parks and Recreation Commission on June 13 and will be a two-day concert featuring up to three bands per day.
As for the 2013 The Ride Festival, consideration for approval will come after the 2012 event takes place in August, with the P&R Commission considering it at their Sept. 19 meeting, after which the Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events would consider it at their Oct. 3 meeting.
Since adding KOTO’s The Ride Festival to the Telluride summer event schedule, members of council have heard a number of concerns about the festival, which prompted Tuesday’s work session. The meeting drew a full house into council’s chambers, from factions both for and against allowing more new music festivals to join Telluride’s lineup of summer events.
“The primary reason this is happening in August is one, the [USA Pro Cycling Challenge] bike race is coming,” The Ride Festival organizer Todd Creel said. “Second, we are always coming up with new ways for the radio station to improve itself, and I feel like there is more room for music.”
For those concerned that another music festival will compete with Telluride’s existing festivals, Creel suggested that competition is healthy and ultimately benefits everyone.
“I am happy with what we are doing, and I would like to do it in a spirit of cooperation without anyone feeling like it’s a problem,” he said.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival Director Craig Ferguson questioned how many music festivals can be accommodated, further expressed concern that if there are to be more festivals, they should be as different as possible.
“I am not against another music festival but I would like it to be different than bluegrass and I am sure Steve [Gumble] would like it to be different than Blues and Brews,” Ferguson said.
“Balance is the key,” weighed in Telluride Jazz Festival Executive Director Paul Machado. “What has driven us crazy is the inconsistency in regards to where KOTO is going to be. We love you guys, but we don’t know where you guys are going to be. I think some consistency and balance is a great thing for this town to work toward. The more festivals you have, the harder it will be for [another] festival to survive. I think it’s a balance issue.”
For Sheridan Opera House Event Director Ronnie Palamar, KOTO’s plans for a two-day rock festival this summer were especially frustrating – Palamaar hard already booked Big Head Todd and the Monsters for two nights, only to hear they’d decamped to The Ride Festival, instead.
“We are constantly trying to entertain this town,” Palamar said. “Big Head Todd held the Opera House for eight weeks. I had no idea he was holding the Opera House so it would be open [if The Ride Festival didn’t occur]. We need collaboration and communication.”
Others spoke out in favor of adding another festival to Telluride’s lineup, including nearly 20 merchants who emailed the Town in support of the economic boon large music festivals bring to the region, according to Mayor Stu Fraser.
“If we are going to work hard to keep this town afloat, we need people here, period,” Sweet Life owner Jennifer Hayes said. “We need people in this town to keep this town alive.”
Telluride Tourism Boardmember Larry Mallard said he believes the new festival should be approved, and that lodging bookings for August are already pacing well because of The Ride Festival.
“From the Telluride Tourism Board’s perspective, we cannot make it [through] the summer on three festivals,” Mallard said. “We do have room to not only add this festival every year but room for several more. To ask us to protect the three major [festivals], to protect just those and say we can’t add more is a bit shortsighted. I would encourage you to continue on this path.”
Whether or not The Ride Festival becomes a regular fixture in Telluride’s music scene remains to be seen. If it is successful, town officials in charge of approving it for next year will almost certainly have a lot to consider.
“What I heard is we need to be careful but shouldn’t turn away opportunities,” Fraser said in closing the discussion. “We need to try to find more sustainability in our economy and that we should be protective but not too protective. If it is successful, you better believe they will come back for 2013. That will mean they will have to work with everyone and work correctly with the community.”
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